GOODYEAR, Ariz. -- Save for the "raccoon eyes" and a puffy nose, Reds closer Aroldis Chapman looked remarkably good under the circumstances.
Visiting the Reds clubhouse Sunday afternoon, Chapman had the appearance of a boxer who just finished 12 rounds in the ring. In reality, the lefty was the victim of a line drive to the face vs. the Royals on Wednesday night, and underwent surgery the following day to repair fractures above the nose and left eye. A metal plate was inserted to stabilize the injury.
"To be honest with you, I feel really good. I feel a lot better than I thought I was going to be," said Chapman via translator and assistant trainer Tomas Vera.
Chapman, who was discharged from a Phoenix hospital Saturday, threw a 99 mph fastball to Salvador Perez that was lined up the middle. With barely any time to react, Chapman was unable to block the hit and was struck in the head in a terrifying moment. He immediately went down on the mound and could be seen kicking his legs as trainers and teammates rushed to his aid. The crowd at Surprise Stadium was immediately silenced with concern.
"I wasn't thinking about nothing there. It was so quick," Chapman said. "It was something you don't have a chance to think about. At the time it was happening, I was conscious the whole time. I never lost consciousness. I knew what was going on. I was worried about what would happen. My face started to get bigger and I was thinking 'What happened? What's going to be the consequence of this?' I was able to recognize and know what was going on with my surroundings."
After Chapman was taken off of the field by stretcher and transported to the hospital, the game was called off.
Members of the Reds and Royals visited Chapman in the hospital Wednesday night and the day after his surgery. That included catcher Brayan Pena and the player who hit the line drive, Perez. Well-wishes from fans and the baseball community also poured in.
Brandon Phillips (@DatDudeBP) March 23, 2014
"I feel proud, I feel really happy to know there are this many people who came to -- a lot of players, all my teammates, all the Cuban players in the area came to see me," Chapman said. "Not only have the physical visits -- but also through social media, the number of people who have prayed for me and all the good wishes that people had for me -- makes me proud and happy for the many, many people who contacted me."
Chapman's father was among those who rushed to the field when he was injured and he has been with him at the hospital.
"You can't ask for more when you're going through something like that and you have your father right there next to you," Chapman said. "I'm so happy and glad that he was there with me when this happened. The rest of the family -- they all wanted to come over but it was my decision not to have the other part of my family here with me because I believe it would be too much impact for them. It would be too much stress for them."
Amazingly, Chapman has watched the replay of his being hit in the face -- which is hard to look even for a total stranger.
"After I watched the video, and I have been watching the video, repeating it many, many, many times and every time that I see it I feel really happy because this could be something worse," Chapman said. "The way how I am right now, the way how I feel, I'm in no pain. I have no pain at all. How I've been progressing has been great for me."
The only thing that was not visible was the surgical scar from the surgery. Chapman was wearing a cap that covered the numerous staples that ran along the top of his head, to enable the insertion of the metal plate.
Chapman posted a graphic image of the incision scar on his Instagram account Friday. What made him to decide to do such a thing?
"When you've got so many, many people trying to contact you and wishing you doing well, people asking how things are going, you don't have time to reply to everybody," Chapman said. "So I decided to show them how I am and how I feel so I decided to put the picture on Facebook and Instagram -- just to tell them I'm doing OK."
just saw a certain 'missile', warms my soul to see him, kind of lets you exhale a little bit. perspective- Sam LeCure (@mrLeCure) March 23, 2014
According to team medical director Dr. Tim Kremchek, Chapman could begin working out and throwing 10-14 days after the surgery. He could pitch in game conditions in approximately four to six weeks.
The Reds, who have not decided who would close games to begin the season, are faced with a tough roster decision. They could put Chapman on the 60-day disabled list to clear up a 40-man roster spot for a non-roster player trying to make the team. But there is a better-than-good chance he might return sooner. Because 60-day DL stints can't be backdated, the earliest he would be allowed to return to a big league game is May 29.
"We certainly know as far as the healing process goes, there's optimism that he'll have healed physically from the surgery," Reds manager Bryan Price said. "There's a certain amount of time where they're not going to want him to have any risk of re-injury -- fielding practice or being on the field and maybe getting hit with a line drive or hit with a batted ball, if he's out there playing catch.
"Whatever it is, we're going to be very conservative in the environment in which we place him as he does his recovery. From that point on, it's getting his arm back in shape and seeing where he is. I'm sure there's an emotional element to getting him back and pitching again. I think from a physical standpoint, it's realistic to see he could be back well before the 60 days would elapse. There's no way to quantify if he's going to be ready to pitch in a Major League game in 60 days or not."
Chapman said he has not had the chance to think about whether it would be hard to return to the mound again after his ordeal.
"This could happen to anybody else," he said. "This is just something that happened in my job, I got hit. … I've got to get over it. Personally, what I'm thinking right now is that I'm going to have to start throwing inside more."